Bob was inside. He wanted alfresco. He was debating the exact how of this on what he called a couch, but what even the most generous and wine gay and stylishly rhetorical layman would describe as a series of crates covered in a schizophrenia of fabric, rag and burlap being the biggest contributors. Bob flattered himself in many areas of his life, this designation of not-couch as couch supplying but a sprig in a thicket. Another was calling the current setting his house. It was a room. A room that had its days of sun and compliment, but that was world wars ago. Now it was on a precipitous negative slope, a process of ever increasing afflictions not the least of which was Bob. Bob and his habits and his decorating schema. There was also a man with a frontload of beer belly and a gargoyle of head and thickly muscled forearms and no love for Bob. This man lacked glee and his name, from the Bob, was The Form. The Form slumlorded the room as part of a steadily mildewing empire of garrets and fucktels in the gray parts of the city. The Form murdered Sgt. Dinkums. They are worth mentioning.
Bob’s debate, his word again, raged on. More hagiography from Sir Bob, get used to it. His debate is what we, from a safe follow, can call addlement if that were a word, confusion or impairment which are. Bob was addled because he had a brain in receipt of several insults. These insults were both genetic and happenstance. Genetic in that he was forged from a long line of mouth breathers. These open mouthed ancestors roamed the earth in surprised-looking packs, worked sparingly, and fucked each other at the slightest provocation, their capacity for underachievement, poor decisions, and fecundity making generational economic leaps impossible. Happenstance because on an evening eleven years ago he’d made the poor decision (genetic catalyst) to call a night security guard at a roast beef chain a “vagina.” Bob performed this taxonomy under the influence of subjective humor and bitter apple schnapps. Or anise. The security guard, a strict etymologist, held narrow usages for vagina, personal pronoun not among them. He adjourned Bob to the sidewalk and, looked on by a gallery of giddy anti-Bobs, insulted Bob’s brain.
Blunt head trauma had been mixed for Bob. He’d spent the last decade lifting his developmental age from newborn to seven. Good that he’d made progress, unfortunate that he’d had a redo on potty training and bottles as a forty year old. His caseworker Gail had become a friend where there were none prior. Good. She was a friend who practiced on Bob. She tongued Bob and made Bob touch, tongue her underneath her spinsterwear, those cargo sweaters, those girdled underpanties, those homemade socks. He had no context for her moans. Not so good for Kid Bob. She re-taught him to read from the Bible. All other texts were confiscated from Bob and burned in small trashcan fires, Gail using her punch-ringed mouth as a bellows. During her home baptism of Bob he cried from the diaphragm and sucked blessed orangeade through his nose. Whenever he cried she breastfed Bob to a status quo that was tenuous for lack of milk. Mixed effects these. Bob still wet his not-cot (two bags of peat moss resting end to end, covered by urine stained muslin). Bad habit, but he wasn’t sullying silk and a Stearns and Foster. He ate only canned legumes. Could be worse. He celebrated his own flatulence, which, thanks to the legumes, was legion. Age appropriate, good to see Bob happy, social problem. Bob could spell, state his name. Learning was Bob, give him a star, a smiley. He stated his name compulsively and mostly as part of the conjunctive phrase “And Then There Was—–!” Blame Gail, indeed, but Bob brought to it a pompous, not cute quality. Demerits. The hagiography and the mouth breathing carried over from pre-blunt trauma. Genetics are sticky.
Bob was a case. A case with a file. And servants. Low percentile products of the civil service exam like Gail and Vinny Rella, public defender and side proprietor of Flowers By Vinny. Vinny was better at flowers, arguably a savant. Had a knack for unexpected arrangements, odd duets of say roses and cacti that seemed way wrong but sung, sometimes made people cry from the beauty of. Vinny was unsympathetic to juries. Because he had a perm that was too relaxed for the era. It reverberated 70’s porn and pedophilia. We don’t know if Vinny ached for young tenderloin and he’d never been caught black-gloving kidnip in the backseat of his Cutlass. He looked like he would is all. Gave the impression of said inclination. He did drive an ever-waxed Cutlass which was halfway to something bad on its own. When things went against Vinny in court he stomped his feet and made faces like a brat which moved the line of his perm up and down his forehead. Vinny went up against the roast beef chain and got chumped. In lieu of damages he won Bob Gail on a sliding scale, a disability allowance, and rights at the YMCA. The roast beef lawyers got bigger offices and lifetimes of all you can eat over that one.
Bob reckoned on. He was hungry and bereft of canned inventory. It was sad outside. Metallic colored. Stinky. A wind blew over the bilge canal, took on stink, and heckled against his rickety pane, his solo pane and a filth-choked one at that. Bob didn’t like the mood of that wind. It ghouled him and set up a stark contrast against his home, his homeroom, which was warm enough to hatch baby chicks. The smell of the wind was neuter to Bob. He was encased in a cocoon of his own funk plus he was inured to the drift of biohazards. It was his home whiffage, a locus of stench that said to Bob’s injured brain, “And then there was home. Give us this day our daily stench. Home is where the smell is.” Could such pronouncements be applied in cursive to doilies and mats and sold for modest profits to losers? We venture they could. Alas, Bob was no entrepreneur. Sucking the tit Gail was his speed, his dry gulch lot in life.
Bob didn’t have his long-johns in rotation yet. Bob would need his underjohns to go up against that wind. Bob wasn’t convinced he had the energy to go digging for those subgarments in the mounds. Besides his not-furniture Bob shepherded a collection of mounds, hillocks of miscellany that baffled him, made his debates lengthy and circular. “What is that mound? Is my underjohns there? Or is they not? If they be not, then where in Jesus’s name? Let us pray for my underjohns to make themselves seen. Show me a sign. I am scared of the wind. I want to go outside. Am sleepy. Hungry and need beans. The Form is outside. He is not nice to And Then There Was Bob. He will yell for money. Gail has not made my check into money. I have enough for beans, three cans of beans which I will eat two of right off, one of tonight after Gail. What if The Form takes my bean money? Should I wait for Gail? She can help me with The Form and the bean-getting. I want the jolly greens. I need to go outside. Where are my johns? This is my best debate ever.” Bob so cogitated, his brow worried like ancient man receiving his first blowjob (“Will my penis be eaten?” wondered Ardipithecus) 1) .
Bob’s debate was detoured by voices. Mutterings from neighbormen that drew Bob and his ear up from his not-couch and against the wall that was talking. Bob’s brain had a brand of Attention Deficit Disorder that pre-roast beef vagina assignment was fair. Now it was critical. Bob forgot his conjuring of long undies from the mounds, his need for bean. The hard to translate whispers of the men were his solar system. Bob floated in this system, listened to its ambience for a duration of time in which a median hominid might travel a mile. Give or take a wind and technology allowance. There were words and then, sounds.
“I will prong now.”
“Are you in receipt?”
“Not as yet.”
“—Ooooof. Jelly it.”
The sounds of the system traveled an upward graph and Bob, unwittingly, trancelike, matched their intensity and approximate melody with his own voice. This made Bob feel like a weightless fetus, a happy ignoramus that is. This was a copacetic state of affairs for Bob. A real boon to innermost Bob, his molecules and such. It penetrated the stuff of Bob and he more than cooperated. He frolicked. Sort of. Using the wall and the sounds, his and theirs, Bob syncopated his body into deep bending, down down down into a catcher’s pose and then slowly up, as he elevated, he curved his chest into the wall, glancing across its cratered and pocked and mystery stained landscape gently with his bare nipples. Because Bob was wearing only his pants. Pre-Bob was fat. Now Bob wasn’t. Add that to the catalog of modest gains. Faster and faster went the sounds and so, too, Bob, his meme, his knees, his nips, their friction. Bob’s pants, size fat, could not keep pace and began a steady leak into a plaid melt at his feet. Bob’s adult diaper was the only thing that stood against his bobbing. They were cinched fast to middle Bob, the spigot and cleave of him, and would not, it seemed from these trials, fail him anytime soon. In the four decades since baby Bob there had been two Asiatic wars, unleaded gas, the rise and fall of two alternative professional football leagues, and the diaper revolution. Bob was oblivious to all but the latter. His history, which he had begun to scrawl longhand onto the margins of Chinese takeout menus and dictate orally to Gail, would launch with this approximate paragraph2) : The infants had done it again. They had sullied themselves and so they brayed out to their keepers. For what, pray tell? Well, I’ll tell you what we brayed for. A featureless square of cloth, cotton if we was lucky. They would set upon us with grimaces and open mouths and tongues against god and there would be rough trade done to us. An exchange of the ruined square for one less so to god we begged, at least one rinsed and dried over the radiator grate. The bobby pins came with clumsy hands and often, we bled. But, for fifteen minutes of dry, a bit of red was wee taxation. Wee.
So these diapers of postmodernity with their accordion grip and Velcro belting and super-absorbency were marvelous to Bob. They formed the totality of his interest and participation in what could be loosely termed “technology.” Bob was a fan. He remained faithful well beyond Gail’s potty training. Not that he abused them, but at times, it was convenient to release his pee-poop muscle and put them into employ.3)His house, you see, had the feature of no toilet, the amenity called Shared Toilet Down The Hall.
“Scumpf! Boof! (Blurred creak—floorboard perhaps) Fummff! Kundff! Steve!” called the neighbormen.
“Scumt! Woof! (Bob silent here) Funmoof! Comff! Reeve!” did giddy, slackless Bob.
The adjoining men were sourced by something potent, a clean burning fuel that delivered torque, cadence. Bob had his trance, his body flexion, his nipple rapture, but he also had a belly and body that needed bean. Also, though skinny, Bob was not fit. His lungs, his muscle tone were indoorsman. As the pace increased Bob was more and more approximate. Enervation, oxygen debt taxed Bob’s onomatopoeia. Being a child Bob was also stubborn. Had a headlong, you could say dumb, approach to insurmountability. Boxers and roosters and Bob are siblings here. It’s not like Bob is the only one. Big heart, damaged brain. So Bob slopped it good. Hit the wall, blundered. Yelled Junta; when the neighbors were in a desultory shifting of weight. The pronunciation was hard J and bouncy.
Freeze Bob. He is mid-elevation, nipples free, mouth open, inhalations fierce, eyes stuck wide in a quality no longer blissful, not yet darting, but awaiting instructions, ready to dart. All quiet on the wall. But the amniotic sac was bursted. Bob was no longer a happy fetus. He was a sinful fetus who’d loosed a “Junta” where none was called. You can’t call back a junta after it’s been sent. Especially a hard J junta, those are even more mercenary, more prone to foment. A soft junta, maybe that could pass through the wall undetected, avoid censure. This wasn’t that though. This was a renegade, mistimed, bad Spanish junta on the loose and it was Bob’s fault. It was on Bob at this point.
No longer quiet on the wall. Men on the other side talking, shifting. Desperate, frightened Bob restarts his bending move, thinking maybe that will bring back the pre-junta days, those salad days of staccato grunts, call and response across a shared wall between Bob and men unknown to Bob, but neighborly. Bob’s bends were more tentative now, half-hearted and he steered his nipples clear. This was no time for nipples on the wall. That time was long past. Bob’s nipples tingled for contact. Bob began to sob. Nipples that want to kiss a wall but are left to dangle, unrequited. This was sob worthy.
“Who dere!” bellowed Tim, Steve, Roger, Reeve. Choose one. “Who da fook dere!”
Bob dropped down upon his diaper, his pool of pant, scooted clear of the wall, dragging the pant. He took refuge next to Sgt. Dinkums’ litter box. Put his hand on the top of the box for succor. Eyes on the section of the wall that was noisiest. Bob’s eyes definitely doing some darting now, some quick looking from the wall to the litter box over the mounds to the door of his homeroom and back again in a mixed order. Eyes expecting the worst, hoping against it, but in no way convinced of happy floating again. Eyes wanting return to lark, wet with sob, childlike.
Pounding on the wall. “You dead littlefook!” and pounding. “We’s coming for you beechnuts. Junta want a taste? Some’in fer yer craw?”
Taste of what wondered Bob. Craw? Bob had no idea about craw. Craw was not in the reading. Claw was in the reading, but it sounded like craw. Craw. Claw. Hooved claw of the bad man. Only thing I want to taste is can of beans. Have no use for craw or claw right now. I would want they should bring beans. Maybe they will bring beans to me. That would save me having to go outside without Gail and fear of The Form and save me the bean money. But those other words from the wall had mean in them, a whole bunch of mean. And the pounding, it had mean in it. Gail used these kinds of mean when she made me love on her, during and right after she made me put my mouth on her. With the mean she sometimes pinched. Pinches that dug in, drew. But she seemed sort of happy during the doing of these things.
Baffled Bob. Had no idea how to solve the craw-claw puzzle. Wanted a taste but maybe not of the thing they were offering.
“Dere junta man? Cat git yer tongue?”4)
Bob put a little tinkle into his diaper at this. Did they know of Sgt. Dinkums? How? Bob almost yelled out “Dinkums is dead!” Wanted to scold these men about the evil done to the Sgt., how much it hurt Bob and how the bringing up of it was also the work of the hooved one. But what if there had been a resurrection of Dinkums and these men on the other side of the wall were witness? If only Sgt. Dinkums has risen thought Bob. That would be a blanket to me now. Because Sarge was a cool customer. He’d been an unworried animal, an unblinking vessel of calmation for Bob. Bob looked into the litter box that he hadn’t changed since the murder. Why can’t my kittycat of god come from the box and unto me now? Bob remembered the martyrdom of Dinkums. How The Form claimed to nose him from the hall one Sabbath and with a jangly haunt of keys barged in on Bob and the Sgt. during their daily bread. How with an ugly, beer smelling mouth The Form verballed a cat policy that was hostile to cats. Then The Form necked Sgt. Dinkums and adopted him out the window. How Sgt. Dinkums had neither mewed nor scratched, only looked at Bob with unblemished eyes as to say, “It is clear from your lack of intervention that you bless this.” How wrong the Sgt. was. Bob did not bless it. He had brain damage. For the same reason that flies luxuriated on Bob before he felt the tickle and swatted, he did not budge here. He watched and only after the Sgt. had left the building, did he slough to the window and see the Sgt. drag his damage into a sewer drain and disappear. Only then was Bob no longer benign. Only then did he scream and look back at The Form, jut jawed and no words, just an index finger trained on Bob, held there, proprietary.
Tim, Steve, Roger, Reeve, some or the all of them, began to travel. Their route was represented to Bob by a succession of wooden sighs, depressions of wood fiber by masses that Bob deemed meaty. Not that Bob would deem, that is a bit refined for Bob, but he could sense things. That is what he did here. He sensed. And suffice that the sounds seemed to Bob, from his senses rather than his deeming, meaty, in origin. They did not mince, this man or men. If they minced Bob would still be craven and his eyes would still be following the sighs along the wall warily, but it might have prevented Bob’s hyperventilation. Because that is what Bob did. He lost control of his breathing. His breathing got ridiculous. Just like that Bob couldn’t suck enough. No matter how much Bob opened his craw, and he opened the living shit out of it, he couldn’t get enough content in there. Where Oh Where Did The Content Go? would be the ditty. Though Bob didn’t sing. Couldn’t carry song. Not post brain damage and definitely not during a hyperventilation crisis borne of meaty seeming men on the other side of the wall, man-men who were very much on the move. And content. If Bob were doing the lyrics, solely Bob, content wouldn’t make the draft. Air might. Air would be worth a wager. Breath of life the darkhorse. While you’re at it, slap a few dollars on manna to show.
Bob was in bad need of some manna. The bean deficit and the deep knee nipple bends and the mantra calling across the wall and now the crawpeople in the hallway and at Bob’s door, pounding and making orangutan noises, they cumulated to make Bob a gasping, sagging to the floor, groping at the nearest mound and finding a deodorant aerosol manchild.5) As the men rendered the door in and staggered forth with momentum and plumbing accessories, and it was clear now that they were plural as in two and both wearing rubber masks, Bob had no reply in him. In lieu of appropriate content, be it air, breath of life, manna, Bob fed himself deodorant. The pressure was built and delivered into Bob’s craw or maw a load that was ample.
Black out Bob. Put Bob on hiatus and watch the neighbormen, who were, it turns out, not at all meaty, but sinewy, scarecrowish, thyroidal. Besides the masks they wore coveralls the backs of which stitched out Ace Latrines. Meet Tim and Steve. That’s how their tags went, reading from leftmost man to rightmost man as they advanced on fallen, blacked out, deodorant breathed Bob. They could be brothers this Tim and Steve, but weren’t. They issued from treacherous, one-child wombs which goes partway to a Tim Steve theory. Not that we’ll advance it in its entirety now, our science is still green, unfunded.6) But there was a temperature to these men that was brotherish. There were restive seasons to them, some dour, laconic, professional, others sub-equatorial, goofball, non-union. Any tilt of the Tim-Steve axis, and there was no limit to the variety and number of possible tilts, in this case a wall buffered, Bob-spun Junta, and they experienced massive and simultaneous flux. When they were besides themselves with heat and this was one of those times, their Adam’s apples rode up and down their overlong necks and they performed amusements. Crisp and it could be construed, witty misbehaviors that were expressions of a diseased love between them. Put rustically, they went great lengths to avoid butt-fucking. Brotherish plumber men, even ones with dues in big time arrears, should not butt-fuck on the clock. They were staunch on this. This injunction against butt trade, the energy withheld there, got banked into a joint account, a Tim Steve hijink fund. Eventually, a situation would arise that was hot for investment and Tim and Steve would spend freely. Bob on the floor for example. Bob was going to be the beneficiary. Not that Bob benefited.
Right Guard was not much of a guard to Bob. Tim and Steve found Right Guard inspirational, especially the wrongful way Bob applied it, his mouthing of it they fancied. His diaper, the mounds, the not-couch, his not being conscious, these were all things Tim and Steve, as hijink artists, as producers of ribaldries in lieu of verboten butt-fucking, could really flux to. Tim and Steve went bent.
They danced about Bob, slalomed his mounds, plucking fabrics and streaming them up and down, whooping, singing, damning enemy Bob for offenses they invented and were outraged by and needed to make recompense for in the name of the slim goofball plumbing nation. They put things on into Bob. They used the mounds to litter, dress, almost suffocate Bob. They puppeted Bob, gave him dialogue in an olden style, in the style of his “junta,” in a southern drawl, in the voice of their union local7) , in the manner of noir, opera, kung fu, soldier, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians. Bob played certain roles better than others. Unconsciousness was hell on some of Bob’s line readings. Though he nailed corpse. Fondled boss, kissed to death POW, S&M cop, asking for it, cocky Indian brave. He convinced on those. But the coup was when Tim and Steve cast Bob as an escaped sideshow of a tertiary market circus.8 In this role Bob was a deranged mute. He proved formidable. There was the plot point of Steve becoming trapped under the dead weight of Bob, a plot twist that Steve initiated but then, because of a conspiracy of gravity and some kind of stickiness on the floor, spilt bean broth perhaps, he lost authorship of. Slim Steve got stuck under skinny Bob, truly stuck, and Steve’s solar plexus found itself, momentarily, pressed down into by a great deal of Bob and this was not hijink for Steve anymore, it was squirrelly, yelping for Tim time, and only after some serious body vectors and Tim nearly dislocating Steve’s elbow did Steve get loose of sideshow Bob. All this made Steve angry, embarrassed. He feared
Tim may have lost respect for him. Something about the tautness of Tim’s mouth like he was braking a laugh, like he was putting a governor on it to protect Steve’s feelings. Steve couldn’t have government coming between him and Tim. Steve had to win Tim’s free and unregulated love back posthaste. So Steve used Right Guard on Bob. He lit the perfumed vapor and flamed it against Bob’s mid-belly, super diaper, sub nipples, the vague region thereof. Giggled and repeated as devilish hashes bloomed on Bob. As the canister emptied, Bob, still black, but once again sensing, produced a steady trickle of tears. Tim and Steve watched those tears, Steve accelerating them with the deodorant flamethrower. Tim and Steve were moved. Soon all three actors were crying. Tim and Steve joined Bob on the floor, the Right Guard, their hijink spent. They were rapturous, tearfully post-coital without the coitus. They lit cannabis skeins and lulled in the mounds like kittens.
See And Then There Was Bob dawn to and not so slowly sense the abuse. Here, for the first time since his application of “vagina” to a man who would not truck vagina and made sure Bob was clear on this, Bob’s brain managed a quickness, a neural avidity that cut through debate, mooted it.
Exit Bob to Tim and Steve giggling. This transit of Bob out of his homeroom is geometrically clean, imitation of sprinting. It is sprinting for Bob. Bob’s sprint is another man’s jog. Bob exits, sprinting.
According to the law of escalating badness9) native to such settings, enter The Form to Tim and Steve still giggling, then registering The Form and not giggling. The Form has a cannabis policy. He has a policy about plumbers smoking cannabis when they should be jellying pipes next door. For a slumlord he has a lot of policies. He also has a crowbar.
If you are a bystander or like us live in your car pending receipt of fresh funding and that car is parked in medias res, that is, right in front of Bob’s building, it might not be the first time you will see a belly burned, bellowing, slipping diapered man exit a fucktel in the gray part of the city. It may indeed be the last. Probably better that it would be. But if you are a bystander here, as we are, and you wake up from a nap and see him flail to the entrance of what Bob understood and forever commemorated the Sgt. Dinkums’ Hole To Heaven and attempt to follow Dinkums down into it and because he is generally skinny but too fat for successful passage, he gets wedged halfway and unhappily so, you might consider intervention. You might think about clearing the Colonel’s half-eaten bucket from your lap and getting out of your Caprice and doing something. You might also just watch and wait for more.
Whatever the case you will remember Bob Alfresco with lasting clarity even as your brain falls to the deleting charms of age and environmental hazard or forbid, blunt trauma. It is information that tattoos itself into the mushy coils. And that is no small task, tattooing mush. Hard to get good purchase on mush, solid contact points on coils.
1) This provokes the question of Man’s first blowjob. Intercourse for propagation only was first. Tool gathering after. When did the blowjob dawn? Likely the result of a grooming accident. More research on this topic is required, reportage to follow.
2) With modest editorial guidance. Best read in an Irish brogue weakened and made plaintive by a lack of potatoes or substitute starch. Definitely no meat in the house. That much is bonafide. And wood for stove is long gone. Mamie’s eyesight is failing. Papie is dying loudly in the other room. Pup is dead. Dame Peebles is still such a colossal bitch.
3) Gail teach Kegel to Bob. Bob learn well, practice longtime. Bob sphincter grow to strength of forty mules. Bob use power of sphincter to edit leakage, keep diaper village safe. No landslide. No flood. No rash. Just moist paddy.
4) In the interests of rightful disclosure, tongue here was pronounced ton-goo in a fashion Tim, Steve, Roger, Reeve intended, we believe, as mocking. Not that we can speak for Tim. Steve, etc. but when they spoke, this is what Bob heard. We can speak for Bob.
5) Gail brought Right Guard to Bob. She sprayed Bob to make herself sexual, to give him sexiness. Gail raped to Right Guard. That was another of the wounds that made Gail unmistakably Gail.
6) We are up to our beards in a bad climate for funding. No inquiry is what the agencies of the day desire. They will fund no inquiry. That they will fund hugely. Put out a pat, sociable thesis and it will get you fields of green. That’s why we live in our car.
7) Here Bob was an amalgam of union lackeys, union duesman, union bossman, and then, the personification of the union itself which was a bit oblique, but didn’t lack moment. In all cases, the union came off draconian, Tim and Steve saintly, misunderstood.
8 Calumet City say. The petting zoo has two animals: a cur with alopecia and a man in a donkey suit who gives rides. The man groans unlike a donkey during. His suit wafts of off-brand smokes and tiger balm. Breakfast for the corps is meth sprinkled coffee.
9) Yet another of our theses that says that in certain settings bad things tend to go from bad to really bad until there is a whole bunch of bad. We cite the police blotter as primary source, exhibit A.
Doug Elsass is an M.F.A. candidate at Columbia University and is working on a novel.